The Afghan War: Creating the Economic Conditions and Civil-Military Aid Efforts Needed For Transition

Recent studies by the Burke chair at CSIS have identified major problems in the planning of the Transition effort. These studies have led to a new survey of the problems in the current level of Transition planning, economic analysis, and civil and military aid. This analysis is called The Afghan War: Creating the Economic Conditions and Civil Military Efforts Needs for Transition. It is available on the CSIS web site at https://csis-website-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/s3fs-public/legacy_files/files/publication/120918_Afghan_Failing_Econ.pdf

This analysis supplements several previous Burke Chair studies highlighting key aspects of the current strategy and official reporting and analysis of the war. They include:
 


The new survey provides a comprehensive set of charts and tables covering progress in the war to date, and the major issues that must now be addressed. It concludes that major changes are needed in the way the US and its allies analyze Afghanistan’s economy, governance, and military progress and that far more realistic and transparent plans are needed for civil-military aid.

The risks and issues in dealing with Afghanistan’s political, security, and economic problems cannot continue to be ignored or “spun” in presenting transition plans to the US Congress and public or to the legislatures and publics of other donor countries. They require a level of transparency, integrity, and professionalism that can rebuild the trust necessary to earn public support. The Dr. Pangloss approach to Transition – touting spin and optimism in this “best of all possible Afghan worlds” -- needs to be put to a firm end.

 “Afghan perfect” and  “Afghan desirable” simply will not happen. Overselling the war is not helping the war effort, nor is it building credibility and support. It is instead distorting the civil and military efforts, wasting massive amounts of resources, and leading the decision makers and commanders directly involved in the war to embrace the existing mission in ways that further weaken the already limited chance of success. While the end result may not be deliberately dishonest, the lack of objectivity and realism is misleading. As a result, the civil and military efforts are discredited as the wagons are drawn into tighter and tighter defensive circles, leading to less and transparency and diminished credibility.

Even if all the proposed steps are taken, Transition will not be easy and may fail to produce a stable Afghanistan. Nevertheless, it seems likely that more realistic goals and funding plans could accomplish a great deal. For all of the problems listed in this analysis, US, IMF, and World Bank working studies indicate that continuing flows of affordable US and European aid carefully focused on jobs and economic stability, as well as development, could lead to a stable transition.

Realism based on “Afghan as good as it can actually get” offers a far better chance of producing plans and actions that may still be able to serve US, Afghan, allied and donor interests, achieve sustained support, and make a more modest form of Transition possible.


Table of Contents

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY    2

REAL WORLD VS. “MYTHICAL-MACRO” ECONOMICS    19

AID SPENDING AND EFFECTIVENESS    33

TRYING TO ESTIMATE AFGHAN ABILITY TO GENERATE REVENUES    48

SPEND, NOT BUILD (AND THEN STOP SPENDING)?    55

UNREADY TO MAKE THE PROGRESS ACTUALLY NEEDED FOR TRANSITION AFTER A DECADE OF EXPERIENCE    60

DEALING WITH THE PRESSURES OF A GLOBAL ECONOMIC CRISIS AND DONOR FATIGUE    74

TRYING TO RELY ON THE AFGHAN CENTRAL GOVERNMENT    81

THE NEED FOR REALISM: DEATH OF THE AFGHAN COMPACT AND NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT PLAN    91

TRANSITION WITHOUT GROWTH AND ECONOMIC CHALLENGES    98

THE AFGHAN RESPONSE: REQUESTING MORE THAN WILL EVER COME    104

WHY MISMANAGING TRANSITION COULD CREATE EVEN WORSE CONDITIONS FOR POST TRANSITION STABILITY    108

THE US, ISAF, AND AFGHANISTAN CANNOT RELY ON MINES AND THE “NEW SILK ROAD” FOR TRANSITION    126

ANSF DEVELOPMENT IS A STEADILY MORE UNCERTAIN ELEMENT OF TRANSITION    130

CONCLUSIONS    161

Bryan Gold and Sean T. Mann